As the end of September comes and goes, the importance of a good start to the KIJHL season is evident. It was imperative with an extremely young team that the Summerland Steam get out ahead of the pack and get a good first month of the 2017/18 season out of the way.
They did just that, heading into the final weekend of the month this past weekend with a 5-1 record. Their wins came at the expense mostly of the Doug Birks Division, beating Kamloops twice, Sicamous twice, and 100 Mile House, while losing to only Revelstoke.
To finish up the month, Summerland got their first taste of divisional play, hosting the Osoyoos Coyotes on Friday and travelling to visit the Kelowna Chiefs for the first time on Saturday. The results were mixed, a 4-2 loss to Osoyoos and a 5-2 win over Kelowna, but Summerland showed well and an argument could be made that they should have won both games.
The only reason they didn’t pick up a victory over Osoyoos on Friday was Coyotes goaltender Daniel Paul. He made 32 saves, a half dozen or so he had no business making, and picked up the victory in a game that Summerland led 34-22 on the shot clock at game’s end.
The Steam got goals from Cody Swan (4) and Scott Robinson (3) in the losing effort, while Jackson Barrett (1), Carter Robinson (1,2) and Cameron Welch (ENG) scored for Osoyoos. 5th year Coyotes forward Judd Repole notched three assists, while Brandon Peacock made 19 saves in the Summerland crease.
Trying to get back in the win column, the Steam boarded the bus on Saturday to Kelowna for their first meeting of the season with their playoff nemesis, the Kelowna Chiefs. The two teams played one another 15 times last season, and the angst was evident from the opening faceoff on Saturday night.
Kelowna would take a 1-0 lead on a goal from Kaden Stewart, his first, but it was all Steam all the time from then on. Gavin Lawrie tied the game late in the first period, beating Chiefs’ goaltender Ethan Hunt with a backhand shot for his 2nd of the year and first of two on the night.
The Steam would take the lead in the 2nd, after Morey Babakaiff forced a turnover in the Kelowna zone and found Blake Holowaty. Holowaty notched his fifth of the campaign, beating Hunt low to the blocker side to give his team the lead.
It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, as Cody Swan would add his fifth and Gavin Lawrie his third (second of the night) to push the lead to 4-1 in the third period.
The Chiefs would push, and on the power play would score to close the gap to 4-2 courtesy of Jordan Woytas with 3:19 remaining.
They would continue their push, but Summerland would add an empty net goal from Simon Snyman, his first, after he knocked a shot down with his face. He was able to get up, go and retrieve the puck, and send it the length of the ice into the gaping cage to close out the scoring at 5-2. Matt Huber picked up his fifth win of the season, making 27 stops.
A win and a loss on the weekend moved Summerland’s record to 6-2 in the month of September. That’s an unbelievable start for a young team finding their footing in the KIJHL and settling into the regular season.
They’re leading the KIJHL in total goals (38) and goals per game average (4.75), as well as Goal Differential at +19. On the defensive side of the puck they’re 4th in the KIJHL in Goals Against (19) and 3rd in Team Goals Against Average (2.38).
On special teams the Steam sit 6th overall on the power play, converting 9 times on 48 chances for an 18.75% conversion rate. They’re 35/41 on the penalty kill as well, 11th in the KIJHL.
If there’s any area that the Steam need work, it’s in the penalty department. They’re giving their opponents an average of just over five power play opportunities per game, which is too many unless you’re going to be 90% or better on the penalty kill.
Summerland will now reload and look for another strong month in October. They’ll start their month on Friday, October 6th at home when the Chase Heat visit for the first time this year. That one will be a 730 start and tickets are just $10!